The Tories have cut the jobs of some 2,000 disabled people.
Remploy is proposing to close 36 of its 54 factories—with potential compulsory redundancies of more than 1,700 workers.
All the sites could be closed by the end of the year because they are, according to the government, “unlikely” to achieve independent financial viability.
Les Woodward, the GMB union’s national convenor for Remploy, said, “It is no surprise—but the truth is that it will ruin lots of people’s lives. There will not be another option for these people—there will not be other jobs to go to.
“This just consigns the disabled people working there to the scrapheap.”
Phil Brannan from the Springburn factory in Glasgow said, “I fear for many of my colleagues. I’m 60 and even if I did not have disabilities, I would struggle to find work.
“I have heard what the government says about finding employment for disabled people and it is utter nonsense.
“In the real world, employers will not employ people with disabilities.
“The average wage here is £14,000. All of us want to work. Sitting at home claiming benefits will be the end of some of us.”
Ronnie Williamson, a Remploy worker in Edinburgh, said, “We went for a lunch and when we returned the management called us back into the canteen and told us.
“We were gutted. People broke into tears. One person had an epileptic fit brought on by the stress.
“This is our lives, it’s what makes you get up in the morning, knowing that you’ve got skills, there’s work to be done and colleagues depending on you. It’ll be nigh on impossible to find other employment.”
Neil Box has worked as a forklift driver for Remploy for 19 years. He told Socialist Worker, “I still can’t believe it. We had braced ourselves for a couple of redundancies, but nothing to this extent. We are devastated.
“I feel discriminated against and they haven’t listened to us at all.”
In 2008, 29 Remploy
factories closed, and 3,000 disabled people lost their jobs. Around 18 months later unions surveyed those workers and
84 percent had not secured new employment.
Kenneth Stubbs, GMB Remploy north east branch secretary, is a worker at the Spennymoor site.
“This is the third time we have heard this since 2006,” he said. “We will face it in the same way we have before—by fighting it.
“We do not expect to change their attitude. But this government has made more U-turns than anyone in history, so there is no reason we cannot make them do the same again.”
'We need to support them'
Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts
“Unbelievably, the big disability charities, and even some disabled people, seem to think it’s a good idea for 2,000 disabled people to lose their jobs.
They say sheltered employment is wrong in the 21st century.
While that would be true in an ideal world, we don’t live in an ideal world.
What’s happening is tragic at a time when disabled people who can’t work are being subjected to a regime of terror.
If the disability charities aren’t going to support the Remploy workers then we need to.
We can’t make the decision for them, but we’ll be encouraging Remploy workers to occupy their factories.”
The cost of a job
Disability minister Maria Miller claims that Remploy costs £25,000 per job—compared to the £3,000 cost of each Access to Work grant for disabled people.
But while Remploy employed 5,217 workers last year, its annual report notes it also “found 20,079 jobs in mainstream employment for disabled people”.
Using the government’s own method, that means the Remploy jobs cost less than £4,000 per person.